We spoke at the end of April last year. How has life been since then?*
It’s been a very difficult year, financially and everything. My girlfriend has been getting furlough money but, after all the rent and stuff, there’s not much left over every month. And then there’s the storage units for my scrap metal to pay for as well. There’s more going out than coming in basically. It’s been putting pressure on the relationship.
How have you survived?
I’ve been doing odd jobs, just ticking over, and trying to keep the scrap metal business going when I can. I’ve just come back now with a washing machine and a pram from the next street and in a bit I’m going out to get a filing cabinet from two streets down the other way. When I get any money, I give that to my girlfriend to catch up on what I owe her. Whenever she pays for anything, she writes half of it down – half the rent, half the council tax, whatever – and then I pay her back when I can from the money I make from selling scrap. And now I’ll be back on my pitch and selling magazines for the first time this year.
So you’re still keeping up with the scrap metal dealing. How’s that going?
The price of scrap has suddenly gone up. It was really low last year so I’ve been keeping a load of stuff in storage waiting for it to change. I sell it to whatever scrap yard will give me the most money for it. We’re a throwaway society and I get all kinds of stuff given to me. Somebody gave me 30 bags of shoes from Marks and Spencer the other day and they were all brand new. I’ve been selling them for £1 to my friends, family and neighbours. A lot of the people in my area don’t have much money and they come round to my house and see what I’ve got, take it and give me a donation for it. My friend’s a tree surgeon and I know people with log fires who can’t afford to pay high gas bills, so I chop up the trees he gets and take the wood round to them and in return they cook me dinner for a week. That’s how I’ve always lived – doing something for someone and they do something for me in return. That’s how we used to live, bartering and trading, isn’t it?
What did you do during the lockdowns?
I went out and walked the dog a lot, collecting any scrap metal that I found lying about. I read a lot of books. I cleaned the alleyways near me with a jet washer and helped tidy the neighbours’ gardens and painted some walls.
Sounds like you’re an asset to the community!
Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. I can be noisy when I’m pushing my trolley full of scrap metal around, but as long as I don’t do that before 10 in the morning and I don’t wake the neighbours up I’m all right.
And how’s your dog?
She’s doing all right. She’s always with me, even when I go out selling the magazine. In nine years, she’s only ever been apart from me once and she cried all night, looking out of the window for me. I won’t take a job if I can’t take my dog to work. They don’t live long enough to leave them for long periods of time. Maybe my life will change after the dog has gone. Maybe I’ll get a proper job and do what everyone wants me to do but for now I’m quite happy doing what I do.
What do you want to do?
I want to own a scrap yard, have a horse and cart, and collect scrap all day.
Is your life on track, do you think?
I’m still a bit all over the place but I’m getting there. I’ve still got stuff in storage from when I was made homeless 10 years ago. I don’t have anyone who can drive a van to go and get it and so I just have to keep it in storage and pay for it.
Do you have a message for your customers?
I hope to see you all soon and I hope everyone has been okay during lockdown.